Where my writing is pulling me lately

I have a love hate relationship with blogging. It comes in fits and spurts. I genuinely love writing, so blogging seems a natural hobby to have. Except that it isn’t. Most days, thinking of a blog post feels like hard work. I already have enough on my plate with trying to think of words to put into my second manuscript now that my first is out on submission. I also deal with words most days of the week through my day job, and when I’m not working in one capacity or another, I’m probably trying to tackle my ever growing TBR (To Be Read) pile.

I know I’m not the only writer to suffer from these problems, and really it’s not a problem in the grand scheme of things. Yes, having an active blog would make my engagement as a writer and potential author easier. I would probably be able to grow my audience if I posted more regularly and that would mean more people to know about and buy my book when (not if) it eventually comes out. I’ve just never been one of those people who can blog when there’s nothing to say. It takes a certain level of training to be able to think up and fire off creative writing every day.

The other thing I have been putting my focus towards lately is a course in Copywriting through the Australian Writers Centre. For a long time I’ve fancied that one day I will quit my ‘normal’ job and go out on my own as a freelance writer. The only thing is, as aforementioned, I don’t seem to have the stamina for thinking up and evidently pitching idea after idea to publications, in order to make any sort of living. That’s a bit of a problem if I ever want to freelance.

In truth, I like that I channel my creative words into my novels. It’s what I am most passionate about. I also really enjoy reworking other people’s words. I always have. (Maybe it’s that little bit of control freak in me?) In another life, perhaps I would have pursued a career in editing, and maybe I still will. I have such a keen eye for detail that I actually enjoy proofreading and editing other people’s work. I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, but I do like to read good quality content. Sloppy mistakes hurt my soul – but hey, we ALL make them. I’m not about shaming people if they don’t have a strong grasp on grammar or have a tendency to make silly mistakes. If everyone was perfect there’d be no reason for editors. And I love editors.

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When I saw the copywriting course advertised through AWC, I thought why not give it a go? It’s creative writing, but with the theme/facts already at hand. No need to scrounge around thinking of the angle or the story. It’s about taking the facts and presenting them in an interesting and saleable way.

We are actually surrounded by copy. It’s in just about everything we read and look at every day. That brochure on the table of a coffee shop, the annoying pop up internet ads, newsletters, blog posts, traditional ads, they’re all copy. Surely I’m not the only one who gets annoyed when copy is riddled with mistakes or simply doesn’t sound right?

I didn’t think so.

A good copy writer will be able to take a creative brief and pull something together that a client will want to use. I’m hoping that’s what this course will give me. The skills and confidence to put myself out there and get behind all that copy we see day to day.

After all, I’ve been perfecting other people’s copy for more than a decade now. It’s about time I started writing it myself.

If you’d like to know more about copywriting or any of my other freelance work, contact me here.

 

Taking the next step

Sending ones first manuscript into the world is no easy step. Like the wavering toddle of a baby learning to walk, learning to hush your inner critic long enough to send a file to someone other than your best friend or mother, can be very daunting. I should know, in the past year I have taken a number of steps like this on my walk to publication.

I started my book in late 2014. A project with no expectations or limitations. I’d always dreamed of being a writer, but I had a job I loved and a comfortable, reasonably carefree life. I wanted to see if I could write a book.

It turns out I can! Though, not a particularly good one. At the time, that didn’t matter, because nobody was going to read it. When I decided to take the next logical step in the process and revise the draft, I made a number of revelations, not least of all that maybe I actually did want to make something real of this story.

I signed up to a Masters of Creative Writing. I applied for Fiona McIntosh’s Commercial Fiction Masterclass. I wrote and rewrote my story until it became something I could almost be proud of.

Through each of these meanderings, I shared a chapter here and there. I took on board feedback and criticism and tried to apply parts of these to the whole. Earlier this year, I got my manuscript to a point where I thought, I need someone other than myself to read this and tell me where it’s not working. I was too close to it now and needed a fresh perspective.

But the thought of someone else reading my work in full was daunting. It was a necessary step, I knew, but one that seemed much harder than all the ones before it. Sharing the whole manuscript would be like stripping off my clothes and standing before a crowd, letting them see all there was to me, with no coverings to hide my scars and imperfections.

When I nervously hit send on the email, a miraculous thing happened; I came up with a new story idea. Just. Like. That. It was as if my brain suddenly freed up an entire shelf’s worth of space for something new. The second I released this huge part of myself, reasoning that I would not think or tinker with my manuscript until all four beta readers had returned their feedback, my brain was open and ready for the next thing.

The saying, ‘when one door closes another door opens’ had never held any meaning for me before. In my life, I’ve been the director of the doors. Deliberately opening them and walking through. I always knew what was on the other side. Yet, there I was, fearing that I would be told my work is rubbish, fearing that I would have a void where my ongoing draft had previously been, and most of all, fearing that I wouldn’t have another book in me.

Sending your work into the world, can be like stepping off a cliff. You’re free falling, almost suspended in the air knowing that soon enough, you’re going to hit the water. It’s going to hurt like hell, but you’re too far gone now to change it.

Strangely, the worry about what my beta readers think has subsided. Don’t get me wrong, I still care deeply and want my book to be a success. I want to publish that story, but I’ve also realised that it’s not all that I have to offer. If it doesn’t get picked up, it’s okay, because now I have something new to focus on, and the experience and tenacity to see it through to the end.

The thing with writing a book is that you’ll step over multiple cliffs, climb back up and do it all again. When all my beta feedback comes in, I’ll revise and rewrite and then move onto the next step; either sending to an editor, a publisher or an agent willing to take on my debut novel.

And if my book does get picked up, then the journey really begins!

Yoga is like writing

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I am a yoga tragic. I love it, and have done for years. But I’m by no means great at it, or that committed. I have phases of frequent practice, which helps me to become more flexible, stronger and generally less achy in my muscles.

I notice how quickly I lose my strength and flexibility after periods of not practicing, and how much longer it takes me to get back to where I once was. I didn’t attend a class for an entire year or more after having my son. Now that I have started to attend regular classes again, I realise how hard I must have worked before. I can appreciate how good I once was. Of course, at the time I thought I was rubbish.

Writing is like yoga. You show up on the mat every day for a month, and it gets easier. The Vinyasa flows and your body almost aches for the routine. You find comfort in the mundane. You stretch and pull and push yourself into positions you didn’t think were possible, let alone comfortable.

When you show up and write day after day, you find a rhythm and a stride. It’s easier to push away the negative thoughts because you’re there. You’re doing it. You are a writer.

When I was working on my WIP every day, or at least a few times every week, the words just seemed to flow. I didn’t have any blocks or self-doubts. I just wrote as if no one was ever going to read it.

Then I put it away and didn’t look at it for a long time and I lost all my confidence. When I came back to it, it seemed all too hard. How could I make this thing I had once been so committed to, a regular part of my life again?

With practice.

With patience.

With perseverance.

As with my yoga, the only way I can improve is if I keep at it. Every week I stand on the mat and give it my time. My undivided, uninterrupted attention.

Every time you show up, on the mat, or at the desk, you’re proving to yourself that you can do it. That you want to be better. That you have the commitment to see this thing through until it’s as effortless as breathing.

Show up. It’s the only way.

 

 

8 common areas to focus on when editing my WIP + a Printable

I’ve just completed the full read-through of my 80,000+ word draft. I decided NOT to edit as I read, but rather took hand written, chapter by chapter notes. A number of themes arose as I read back through each of my chapter notes. I thought it best to summarise these in bullet points so that I could print them out and keep them somewhere prominent when I do my editing.

At the moment, that somewhere prominent is on the ‘stickies’ app on my Mac – this way my notes can always travel with me. But I also like to have a print out to pin to my desk for easy reference.

Instead of focusing on the details unique to my WIP, I thought it would be more useful to others to make these generic, and to put them in a fun printable for anyone else who might struggle with these same areas!

These are the things I most often skim over, or perhaps don’t pay enough attention to when I’m head down and writing fast:

  1. SHOW don’t tell!
  2. Similes need to be appropriate to the text.
  3. Needs more inner monologue / emotions.
  4. Read dialogue aloud – does it sound authentic?
  5. The actions don’t suit the characters. They’re too generic or they all feel like the same person.
  6. The word choices aren’t appropriate to time / genre / character.
  7. Misnomers in the timelines and small details are inaccurate or inconsistent.
  8. Too many repetitive words.

Do any of these sounds familiar to you? If so, feel free to print out this poster and hang it somewhere easily visible (preferably your writing desk and not the back of the toilet door.)

Would it be useful if I showed you an excerpt of my WIP where these problems exist for me? Please let me know in the comments below.

printable tips for reviewing your manuscript

Click here to download the printable.

 

The deadline is fast approaching…

Shortly after walking away from five days in the beautiful botanic gardens of Adelaide, with sixteen other writers, led by the fearless and charismatic Fiona McIntosh, I set myself a deadline to finish the second* first draft of my manuscript. October 31 was my D-Day.

That deadline is fast approaching. And, I’m not going to meet it.

It was an ambitious deadline, considering I have a toddler, a part (might as well be full) time job and freelance work on the side. I’ve made my peace with it. Working to a deadline is a hugely motivating way to achieve your goals. But it’s important not to get too caught up on the times when those deadlines fall through the cracks.

I had set myself a word count across four days a week. Some weeks I hit or even surpassed it, other weeks I didn’t come close. My son and I both got hit with Influenza A a few weeks ago, there was no writing to be had during that time!

Though the deadline won’t be met, I feel like I’ve still achieved so much in the past six months. Whilst I may not write every day, when I do carve out the time, I feel completely connected to my story. I’ve made huge changes and I’m proud of the work that I’ve achieved. I no longer dread opening my laptop to work on my WIP, because the story is clear to me now, and though it’s far from perfect, I am more in love with my characters than ever before.

I’ve also been able to acknowledge my limitations and put some strategies in place to work with them. After trying to fit writing into my son’s nap times and getting frustrated when he would wake up “too early”, I decided to ditch the nap time writing and either postpone it until after bed time when my husband is home and can deal with unexpected wake ups, or focus my writing energy on my train commute twice a week.

I also –  somewhat indulgently – put my son in childcare for a few hours on one of my days off so that I can buckle down and get more words on the page. I struggled with this idea at first, as if I was somehow putting my writing in front of parenting, but thankfully I have a wonderful support network of parents who reaffirmed my belief that we can’t pour from an empty cup. Resenting my son for my lack of writing time was emptying my cup quicker than I could refill it.

So where am I at with just a few days to go until deadline? As of this morning, I had written over 73,000 words. I am at the pointy end of the plot and the finish line is in sight. I have a clear idea of my ending, it just needs to be written! The anticipation of reaching the end is motivation enough to see me through the last 10K or so. I know there’s still plenty more work ahead of me, but the thought of sitting down and reading this new story from start to finish gives me such a thrill.

I am loving this journey so much more than I thought I would the second time around. I just hope that one day you all get to share in my characters’ challenges and triumphs, too.

*After feedback and learning so much at masterclass, I decided to start my WIP again, from scratch. I’d already written an 85K first draft, but so much of it needed to change that it felt more efficient to cut my losses and start again.

The Writer’s Room: Jezz de Silva

Oh boy, do I have a good’un for you all today. Not only am I welcoming my first ‘bloke’ to the Writer’s Room, I’m welcoming a bloke who’s also a Romance author.

The affable Jezz de Silva has published two Romance novels, with his most recent, Against All Odds having just been released in September 2017. Jezz is an absolute character whom I’ve gotten to know through his humour and continuous tweeting of adorable animal GIFs on Twitter.

I found myself smiling and nodding along as I read through Jezz’s answers to my questions. I love his message, his optimism and his determination to see every heroine and hero achieve their happily ever after. Above all else, I love that Jezz proves that you don’t need a university degree to be an author. All you need is passion, determination and commitment to get it done, which he has in spades.

My long suffering First Reader and I live in a tiny one wombat town in the hills outside Melbourne, Australia. And when I say one wombat town I really mean it. I see the little girl when walking Bear and Max, my plot and character consultants.

Our little patch of heaven is overrun by a zoo of geriatric rescued animals who eat us out of house and home when not sleeping or guilting us into walks. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

When not tapping my fingers or banging my head on a keyboard creating happily ever afters, I love spending time with family and friends, cooking, EATING, gardening, renovating our castle, and teaching personal protection.

Apart from family and writing I have one other passion that transformed my life.

I grew up an insecure fat kid (now chunky old man) and started studying martial arts twenty years ago with the specific goal of becoming a ninja death killer. I collected black belts, fought in the ring, gave up a professional career to teach personal protection, and even worked as a bouncer.

A lifetime ago I started training with the toughest and scariest guy I could find. That man is now like a brother from a different mother and with the help of the nut bags we train with we’ve finally figured out what ‘IT’ is all about. ‘IT’ is becoming a better person, sharing what we’ve learned, helping others, and living confident, healthy, and happy lives with people we love.

I’m not a big fan of bullies and since women are victimised most in society I help women live safer, confident, and happier lives… Just like my heroes

Buy Against All Odds:
Entangled Publishing
Amazon US
Amazon Australia

  1. First of all, can you talk us through your writing process a little bit? (when, where, how much etc?)

Usually a lot of banging my head on the keyboard, then some crying, followed by more head banging. My First Reader and I don’t have kids so when I’m not day jobbing, sleeping, or getting yelled at, I’m writing. My best words come in the morning so I get up around 5am, seven days a week, and write before walking our dogs. I usually try to fit in two or three more sessions throughout the day. I write slowly so this is the only way I can get enough words down. I draft in Scrivener and revise/edit in Word. I don’t keep count as I find it turns writing into ‘work’. Instead I work as hard as I can without going nuts while making sure I’m still having fun and enjoying life.

I started as a pantser, but have become a plotter to save wasting precious words heading down wrong paths. I now write the dreaded synopsis first and use it as a starting point for a detailed outline before getting stuck into the first draft, which I find the hardest part of writing.

2. What inspired you to start writing, and in particular to start writing Romance?

We downsized our lives seven years ago and left careers we hated. I started test driving cars five years ago as a part time job and listened to podcasts and audiobooks throughout the day. After close to twenty years of studying violence and personal protection I wanted something more uplifting and ended up in Audible’s romance section. After binging on dozens of romance novels I suddenly realised all my favourite stories, movies, and TV shows usually had a love story somewhere in the plot.

Five years ago a scene stuck in my head and wouldn’t get out. I’d wake with it on my mind and went to bed thinking about it. I ended up writing it down and two years, twelve drafts, a critique group, multiple professional edits, and submissions later that scene made it into ‘Home’ my first novel (and it’s still my favourite scene in the book).

My First Reader and I still look at each other and shake our heads because the last creative writing I did was back in high school twenty-seven years ago, and I’d never even dreamed of writing since, let alone making it a career.

3. Where do you draw inspiration for your stories?

My characters, but especially my heroine. I want to give her the hero, life, and HEA (happily ever after) she deserves.

4. Your book ‘Against All Odds’ was published on September 18 by Entangled Publishing. Can you share a little bit about your publishing journey?

WOW! My publishing journey has been crazy and turned my life upside down. After finishing my first novel I figured what the hell and had a crack at getting it published. I had dreamed of getting published, but never really believed it would happen until I at least had a few novels hidden under the bed. Samhain contracted ‘Home’ (I’ll never forget that email) and I was off and running.

‘Home’ released and Samhain contracted my second book, only to close down a few weeks later. After months of limbo I figured what the hell and had a crack at getting an agent. Two weeks and a lot of happy dancing later I signed with Janna Bonnikowski of The Knight Agency. Around six months later Entangled contracted ‘Against All Odds’ and book 2 in the ‘Outback Hearts’ series, and we were off and running again.

I have no idea what the future holds, but my core job will remain unchanged. Keep improving and keep trying to write great books.

5. I don’t generally read Romance, but I really enjoyed Against All Odds. Besides the love interest between your two main characters, there were a lot of strong sub plots, including cancer, limb amputation, death of parents, Australian Aboriginal culture, blended families and life in the outback. Did you have to do a lot of research to bring all of this together and maintain authenticity?

A lot of what I write comes from what I already know. What I don’t know I research heavily. The last thing I want to do is throw my readers out of the story or upset people by doing a crappy job of representing them. I can not comprehend how long research would have taken without Google and the interweb. I also don’t want to bombard my readers with stuff that doesn’t matter so I try to leave out as much of the ‘research’ as possible and only use it to enhance the story. (Note from Kirsty: I LOVE the idea of ‘leaving out’ the research so that it doesn’t distract from the story, rather, enhances it).

6. Your voice and characters are quite distinct. Did you spend a lot of time working through your characterisations or did they come to you fully formed and ready to come to life on the page?

The honest truth is I have no idea where my voice comes from. Everything I do is centred around my characters. I only use plot to challenge my characters and bring them together. I have a rough idea who my characters are before beginning, but fall in love with them as the story progresses and I get to really know them. If I don’t fall in love with them, something’s wrong, and I revise accordingly.

7. Why do you like writing strong and independent female characters?

With my personal protection work I’ve seen and felt the impact traditional society has had on women and it drives me @#$%ing nuts. Ultimately I hope to show how powerful and amazing women are and how they deserve a HEA. Not just because they’ve found their partner, but because they’re living a life they’ve chosen which makes them happy. I can’t stand Alphaholes or any story where the heroine is simply used as a plot device or a doormat who’s ‘lucky’ to have a HEA. I’m also really looking forward to including more personal protection concepts in future books.

Another reason I like writing strong, independent female characters is that I fell in love with one twenty-six years ago and I’m hoping she’ll read this and buy me a donut 😉 (Awwww)

8. What is your favourite thing about being a writer?

Putting smiles on people’s faces. There’s enough negativity in the world and if I can help someone escape for even a few hours, it’s an awesome feeling.

On a more practical note: writing is one of the few professions you can do anywhere, anytime, by yourself, and with hardly any equipment. Writing is by far the hardest mentally and emotionally demanding career I’ve tried, but after two decades of searching, and without even looking for it, I’ve found my perfect career.

9. What sort of training / study have you undertaken as part of your writing journey?

I only have high school English, but I’m extremely lucky to have had the time to listen to thousands of hours of writing podcasts and how-to books. Following writers over their careers, some for as long as a decade via their podcasts, prepared me for just how demanding writing is. I still have no idea where commas and dashes go, much to the frustration of my agent and editor, but I’m slowly getting there.

10. Do you have any advice for other emerging writers?

I’m still very much emerging myself, but the best writing advice I can give is to embrace the fear and have a crack. FINISH your story (everything starts after you finish that story) and send it out to friends, critique partners, editors. Get as much brutally honest feedback as you can. Cry, throw tantrums, swear, then analyse that feedback with an open mind. Absorb what is helpful, and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Then send it out and start the next story.

The biggest question you have to answer for yourself is: ‘Can I write?’. Once you TRULY believe you can, rejection becomes less daunting and you’re free to hunt down your dreams.

 

I hope you love this interview as much as I have. If you have any questions you’d like asked in future interviews, or would like to be part of my ‘The Writer’s Room’ series, please contact me, I’d love to have you!

The Writer’s Room: Rachel Sanderson

I’m so excited to introduce you all to my next guest in the Writer’s Room; Rachel Sanderson. Though Rachel and I haven’t met in real life (yet), we’ve bonded through Twitter over sleepless nights with sick toddlers, finding time to write and reading great fiction. I subscribe to Rachel’s newsletter and it was there that I found out about publication of her debut YA novel, The Space Between. I snapped up the eBook as soon as it was released and promptly devoured it. In today’s interview, I ask the standard writing questions of Rachel, but also delve a little deeper into her novel. There are no spoilers, but if you’ve read the book, you’ll find some wonderful insight from Rachel here.

Rachel Sanderson has worked as a bakery assistant, cleaner, telemarketer, receptionist, yoga instructor, university tutor, researcher and public servant. She’s studied philosophy, Spanish, law and has a PhD in history. She co-wrote a documentary film, The End of the Rainbow, which won the First Appearance Award at the 2007 International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. The Space Between is her  first novel. It was shortlisted for the 2016 Ampersand Prize. She lives in Canberra with her partner and son.

You can find Rachel through her website, on Twitter, Facebook, and the book is available here on Amazon.

According to your bio you are a prolific reader and writer. You’ve had success in documentary writing, short stories, poetry, essays and now YA fiction. Is it difficult to switch between so many genres and styles? And how do you best approach your writing on any given day?

I’ve been writing for most of my life, so I’ve done lots of different types of writing but over a long period of time! I did a PhD in history and one of the reasons I didn’t want to continue working in academia is because I’ve always wanted to write fiction, and I found I couldn’t do both. It just didn’t work for me at all. I’ve had periods of writing poetry intensively but I’m not doing that at all at the moment. Since about 2012 I’ve been really focused on writing novels – it’s taken me such a long time to figure out how to get from one end of a story to another, and it takes so much focus and concentration, I find I can’t do all that much else now.

I do swap between genres though – I write contemporary young adult novels that tend to be on the darker, grittier side, and I’m also writing a fantasy series. I generally have multiple projects on the go simultaneously – something in early draft, something in revisions or resting in the drawer. I find I need to give my first drafts quite a bit of time to rest before I can work on them effectively – often up to six months. So it works well for me having different long-term projects underway. I also quite like the change of voice and style I get when I switch between genres – the tone is really very different, and I think writing fantasy gives me a break from the contemporary and vice versa.

In terms of my daily writing routine – I have a three-year-old and I work part-time and really just grab whatever time I can. Either early mornings, or evenings after my son goes to sleep. Sometimes I write on the bus. I have two mornings a week when my son’s in daycare and I don’t start work till late morning and I generally get a couple of hours then to work, which I absolutely treasure. I’m someone who works well to a routine and if it was just up to me I’d probably stick to a much more regular timetable and do a lot more hours, but it’s just not possible at the moment unfortunately! I’m always working around things and most of the time I live with an underlying feeling of frustration that I’m not getting more done, which is hard. I don’t do much of anything other than writing, parenting and working at the moment – any spare time I have is for writing. On the plus side, I think it makes me very focused when I do sit down to write now. I don’t procrastinate because the time is just so precious to me.

Have you undertaken any formal or informal education in writing? And have you found this beneficial in honing your craft?

When I was in high school I wrote volumes and did lots of fantastic writing workshops at a youth arts centre. I had someone who acted as a mentor to me there, and he taught me a lot, especially about editing.

Writing a PhD isn’t necessarily education in writing as such, but I have definitely found that the discipline I learned from my PhD is something I’ve taken into all the writing I’ve done since. That was how I learned just to sit down and write – when I was in the writing-phase I worked to a word count every day. I drafted and redrafted and redrafted and I wrote something big not knowing exactly where I was going, which was terrifying – which is how I always seem to work.

I’ve tried and failed to write novels for years. I have so many first chapters tucked away in boxes and drawers!  I just couldn’t figure out how to make a story move – how to make things happen. In 2012 I did a ten-month novel-writing course online through the Writers Studio in Sydney. It was very focused on the detail of story structure, and aligning your plot and character development and I did most of the course, then got a bit derailed by life events and didn’t finish it. I did Nanowrimo later that year and that was when I wrote the first draft of The Space Between. So even though I don’t tightly follow the approach we were taught, something in the course just clicked for me, at very long last, and helped me get to the point where I could actually finish a draft of a novel.  That was a huge relief!!

These days I listen to a lot of podcasts, and read Writer’s Digest and books about writing, as well as just reading fiction generally, so I try to keep learning more about the craft of writing that way.

Where do you draw inspiration for your writing?

The inspiration for my writing is primarily from my own life – not that what I’m writing is biographical but it draws on the colour and texture of my experiences. I’ve also read a lot, which I’m sure feeds my imagination. Often my writing starts with a very contained idea, a character or scene, something that sticks in my mind, and I gradually build it from there and learn more about what is surrounding it. It doesn’t all come at once for me – I generally figure things out slowly as I write, or more often as I re-write! That seems to be how I think best.

You recently self-published your first novel, The Space Between. Why did you decide to go down the self-publishing route, and what did you gain from that process?

I’ve been interested in self-publishing for a year or two now. I listen to a bunch of self-publishing podcasts which are really informative, and I’m involved in a Facebook group of self-publishing authors that’s also been really helpful.

My original plan was that I wanted to try to go hybrid – to see if I could traditionally publish my contemporary YA novels, which are stand-alones, and self-publish my fantasy series under a pen name, because series tend to do well for self-publishing authors. I started pitching The Space Between to publishers and got some really positive responses – it was shortlisted for the Ampersand Prize by Hardie-Grant Egmont, which was amazing, and Penguin Random House requested the full manuscript. I got really supportive and encouraging feedback from a number of publishers, but no contract.

I spent a year out on submission – and it’s a very very slow, glacial process. It takes so much patience and persistence, it’s quite draining. And meanwhile I was continuing to learn about self-publishing, and seeing some traditionally published Australian authors I really admire, like Alison Croggon, Ellie Marney and John Birmingham, choose to go down that route. I hit the one-year mark and just decided, pretty much on the spur of the moment, that I’d given it long enough and if I couldn’t get a contract I’d do it myself.

It’s been a steep learning curve but I’ve been so fortunate to have a hugely supportive author community to draw on for advice. When it comes down to it, publishers are businesses and they’re making a business decision about whether to invest in your work or not. If you don’t get a contract, it doesn’t mean your work is no good, or that you haven’t passed some threshold, it just means they’re not willing to invest in you for whatever reason at this point in time. But the technology is available through print-on-demand and online distribution for authors to make the choice to invest in their own work – to do the work and put it out there and let readers decide. I think that’s pretty exciting, and despite moments of absolute terror I’ve been generally loving the experience so far.

You’re based in Canberra, but you set The Space Between in Adelaide. Why did you choose this location, and what research was involved in getting the setting right?

I’m from Adelaide originally, I grew up there and most of my family is still there, so even though I’ve been living elsewhere since around 1999 I go back regularly. It felt like the natural setting for this story, and the place where they go for the camping trip is based loosely on a place I used to camp at when I was young. I honestly didn’t do all that much research – I spent a bit of time with Google Street View and that was about it!!

The Space Between incorporates some quite heavy topics. What was your driving force for writing this novel, and what do you hope people take away from it?

My dad died when I was eight years old, and as a teenager I was struggling to deal with a lot of unresolved grief and trying to make sense of that loss: what it meant to me and what it meant to my family. I think there’s a lot of that experience in the book. Grief can be such an overwhelming thing, and there’s no right way to deal with it. I’ve had a number of readers say they understood why Erica made the choices that she did but they didn’t agree with them, or they weren’t the choices they would make. I feel that you just don’t know, until you’re in that position, how you’ll respond or what you’ll do. And loss doesn’t go away, there’s no magic wand you can wave to make things all better, it takes lots of time and perspective for you to integrate those experiences into the rest of your life. The thing that shifted for me as I was writing The Space Between was that when I started, I thought I was writing a book about loss, about how we deal with losses that don’t make sense. And I worked on the story and worked on the story and one day I just hit a point where I realized that, for me, the point of the book isn’t loss, it’s love. The love between Erica and Daina is the core of the story, and the sense of that enduring love is I hope what will stay with people when they read it.

I found the characters incredibly realistic and well written. The way you developed Daina throughout the text without having her as a physical character in the scene was very clever. Was it hard to write her and your other characters?

It was an iterative process. I had the characters in my head, I think, but that didn’t necessarily translate straight away to the page. I found working with beta readers incredibly useful for this, because at some points they’d interpret characters actions completely differently to how I saw them, and that made me really examine what and how I had shown, and think hard about how to fine-tune them in every scene. So it took a lot of time to get the characters working on the page, but my sense of them was quite clear from the start.

Without giving too much away, the ending of the novel both resolves the main plot, but also leaves many questions unanswered. Is there any room in the future for a sequel, or are you happy to leave this as it is?

I’m not planning on a sequel but I’d never say never! For me, I feel like the story is finished, even with all the loose ends. I did have some ideas for an epilogue that I never wrote though, and these things can sometimes take on a life of their own…

What are you working on now?

I’ve been redrafting another contemporary YA novel called Mirror Me, which is a story about a girl who moves to a small town only to discover that she’s almost identical to another girl who was murdered there a year earlier. It’s a bit more of a thriller, with some whiffs of the supernatural, and quite a different narrative voice, which I’ve enjoyed. I just sent that off to the first batch of beta readers this week, so I’m happy to put it aside and not think about it for a while.

I’ve also just got my copy edits back on The Dying Flame, which is the first book in my Darkfall series, the fantasy I’ve been working on. I’m working through those at the moment (note to self: use less commas!) and am aiming to publish that book in late October. And then, start writing Book Two!!!!

Finally, what advice do you have for other writers who may be just starting out in the industry and looking for publication?

I’m very much just starting out too, but my main advice would probably be just to keep working. Try and polish a piece of writing to the point that you can send it out, send it out, then get started on something else. You don’t want to be too invested in any one piece of work. And think about what you want – there are lots of ways to connect with readers, there’s not just one single pathway to being a writer.

What a fantastic interview and insight into your writing process, Rachel. I hope this gives other authors who have been considering self-publishing the confidence to believe in themselves and not be deterred if a traditional publishing contract doesn’t come their way.

A year in review

My baby turned one this week. In some ways, I can hardly believe I am the mother of a one-year-old, and in other ways it feels like this milestone took an age to arrive.

I have no doubt that parenting is one of the hardest and most challenging experiences of ones life, exasperated for me by the fact that I was unwilling to let go of my writing during those tough early months.

I didn’t write every day. Not even every week. I wrote some poems when I felt overwhelmed. I wrote in my journal a heck of a lot. But I didn’t really open my manuscript for fear that I would get immersed in it and my baby would wake up screaming. Which he did. A lot.

I feel like he didn’t sleep for the first 6 months. Certainly not in blocks of any longer than 2 hours overnight, 20 minutes during the day. He only started to figure out the whole sleep thing at 10 months. But it’s only been since 11 months that he’s consistently been sleeping through the night, and sleeping in wonderful long stints of an hour or more during the day. You will never appreciate a sleeping baby more than when you experience a baby who doesn’t quite “get” sleep.

Aside form keeping my son alive, I actually managed to progress my manuscript quite a lot in the past year. Something I didn’t think would be possible when I was in the depths of sleep deprivation.

After receiving such generous and heart warming support on my recent post over on Louise Allan’s Writers in the Attic, I began to reflect on exactly what I have achieved in this past year. Not just in my journey as a parent, but in my journey as a writer.

Though I still have a long way to go, I think it’s important to acknowledge how far I’ve come. And in an effort to do that for myself, I’m sharing my achievements with you all, here.

When my baby was 8 months old, in my sleep deprived state, I took myself off to Fiona McIntosh’s Commercial Fiction Masterclass. This was five intensive days in a room of 15 other fabulous writers, learning to hone our craft, navigate the publishing industry and basically get down to business. I credit Fiona and this masterclass to kicking my butt into gear and really committing myself to this manuscript.

I worked a reworked a synopsis and submitted it and my first three chapters to the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers. If you’d asked me 6 months ago how confident I was of my work, I would have told you it would never see the light of day. So to submit to such a popular and prestigious award (even with reservations), goes to show how much my confidence in myself has grown.

On advice from Fiona, I changed the names of my character’s and the working title of my WIP – which resulted in a snowball effect of changes to my entire manuscript. At first, this was incredibly daunting, but in actual fact, it’s returned some of the joy and pleasure back into my rewrites. Everything just seems to fit better.

I sorted out my home office. It may seem small, but for me it’s a really big improvement. In order to feel motivated to write, I need a good space. Something with natural lighting and a decent chair. Though I can (and often do) write anywhere, having a dedicated space makes me feel all that more professional.

I’ve made headway on social media, particularly on Twitter where I get a real sense of what a writing community is all about. I fell out of love with facebook but have since decided to modify my personal page as my writing page. I was going to set up an ‘author’ page, but I bulk at the thought of having another space to manage. So instead, I’m taking Valerie Khoo’s advice and using my personal page as my Facebook writing platform.

I started doing some freelance writing and editing. I don’t want to spread myself too thin, so I’m selective of my clients and the time I can put towards freelancing, but I’m enjoying the diversity of work and the options it may afford me in the future.

I started an interview series with and for my fellow emerging writers: The Writer’s Room.

And I created this blog!

 

Thank you to each and every one of you who have followed along with me on this journey, sent me encouraging words through social media or email, commented on my posts and supported me when I’ve complained or exclaimed about anything and everything going on in my life. Your support and encouragement means the world to me. X

The Writer’s Room: Kylie A Hough

This month I’m pleased to introduce another of my Masterclass alumni, Kylie A Hough. Kylie and I bonded over veganism, historical fiction and red wine during our stint at Masterclass. Having heard snippets of her writing through the course, I’m not lying when I say Kylie is an emerging author to look out for. She has a wonderfully deep writing style and voice, and I know her debut novel will be amazing.

Kylie has been disappearing into books and attempting to write stellar stories since she was a little girl. She was born in Frankston, Victoria but has vivid memories of tropical weekend getaways to the islands off Cairns where she lived from the age of eight to when she left in her sixteenth year. She has kept a diary since she was twelve and in addition to journaling, she writes poetry, short stories, flash fiction, memoir and award-winning academic essays. It was however only in 2016 (after an epiphany that she may not in fact be ‘youthing’, and that maybe twenty-two consecutive years studying random courses at university might be enough), that she began writing the novel that had by this time burned a hole into her cerebrum.

Like most writers, she has had a wide range of unrelated and somewhat peculiar jobs, from Registered Nurse in Alice Springs, to Au Pair in the tiny village of Bubendorf, Switzerland, to hostess in a strip joint in London’s East End. She currently lives in a big house on a tiny man-made island in South-East Queensland with her partner, their two children, a psychotic Moodle and two stinky rodents. Along with writing and researching her first historical commercial fiction novel, she pretends she will get a real job ‘soon’, spends way too much in online bookstores, reads anything going, continues to study English via correspondence, and drives her man bonkers.

Find Kylie on Facebook under K A Hough and on Instagram 

1. First of all, can you talk us through your writing process a little bit?
My writing process constitutes a mish-mash of what I’ve learned from life, friends, teachers, uni, books, practice, courses and the team at The Writers Studio (Sydney based). I adhere fairly strictly to what they say because it works for me. Basically I require and thrive on having steps and rules in place to lead me from draft to draft. The gang have provided a structured outline I can follow which involves coming up with a number of turning points and from the macro level, working inwards and downwards, to a micro level involving steps, sequences and finally, scenes. Had I not started my WIP with my clever tutor, editor Kelly Rigby at TWS, I know I would not have a first and half a second draft already complete. (Asperger’s and all my other mental syndromes are both blessings and curses. Yazzah!)

2. What sort of training / study have you undertaken as part of your writing journey? And have you found it useful?

You could say I’ve been training to be a writer from the age of twelve. That’s when I made my first diary entry in a heart speckled, pocket-sized, padlocked book I still have. My little girl likes to read Mummy’s first diary. Other than writing poetry, flash fiction and short stories, I journal and have written a ridiculous number of academic essays for various complete and half finished Bachelor degrees. I’ve taken a variety of short courses with editor Cathie Tasker at Australian Writers’ Centre including Creative Writing Stages 1 and 2 and Writing Picture Books. I’ve attended workshops with published authors Lisa Chaplin on plotting and deep point of view, and Kate Forsyth on planning and plotting. And as you know I recently attended Fiona McIntosh’s signature commercial fiction masterclass. (That’s where I fell in love with your vegan guts!) [Ditto Kye!] And last but certainly not least I am currently working toward a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English with, amongst others, Natalia Tobin (the best lecturer ever!) via UNE online. Oh, and I’m writing my first novel. Did I mention that? The working title is, The Girl in the Photograph. It’s an historical fiction set in post war Paris. I’ve read a bucket load of how-to books too.  I’m interested in life-long learning. Can you tell? If I had to narrow it down, I would say reading in general and what I have gained in person from attending Lisa Chaplin’s and Fiona McIntosh’s courses, and what I’ve gained online from feedback from Kelly Rigby and Natalia Tobin have been the most useful in assisting me on my writing journey. And I can’t not mention Anne Lamott’s, bird by bird and Stephen King’s On Writing, both of which have had a part in inspiring me and building my confidence.

3. Why do you write and what do you hope to get out of it?

Why do I write? I can’t not write. I write to feel my feelings, to give them lips and tongue with which to speak, to acknowledge them as opposed to burying them, to provide them with an escape route onto the big blue ball. It’s therapeutic! That’s a bonus. The primary reason I write though is because I am a writer. I know Grand Master M(a)c told us not to let writing define us, but writing is as much who I am, as something I love to do. I can think of no one thing I love to do more. The joy writing (and having written) brings me is up there with nights nuzzling with my goslings, inhaling baby breath as they laugh, playing kiss chasey in the park as they giggle and grow before my eyes.

4. Who or what influences you in writing?

Everyone I read and have ever read influences my writing. I’ve taken bits and bobs from writers I’ve read as much by osmosis as I have deliberately to arrive at a form and voice that is (I’m told) distinctly my own. I couldn’t tell you what came from whom but I fall in love easily, time and time again, with authors and their works the world over, and each and every one have in some way influenced me.

5. Do you have any advice for other emerging writers?

My advice to other emerging writers is this: Read every day. Write every day. You are better than you think. You can do it if you want it badly enough. Get up, show up, move, push. Don’t stop until you arrive. And lastly: You’ve got this.

Thanks so much Kylie for coming into the Writer’s Room and sharing your insight!

The Writer’s Room: Annabelle McInnes

I am just so excited to introduce you all to my second guest for the new interview series, the Writer’s Room: Annabelle McInnes. I met Annabelle when we both attended Fiona McIntosh’s Commercial Fiction Mastercalss earlier this year, and I was instantly drawn to her. Annabelle is already an accomplished writer, having secured a three book (series) deal with Escape Publishing, the first of which is due out later this year.

From the age of sixteen, Annabelle lived in a youth refuge while she remained committed to her education. She spent two years within a section of humanity that society overlooks.

Her experiences are the foundations that drive her stories and her characters. They fight for their freedoms, have courage in the face of adversity and will ultimately, always aspire for greatness.

Annabelle is privileged to spend her time writing with a backdrop of Canberra’s iconic landmarks and admiring its distinct and captivating change of seasons. Outside of her love for reading, she spends every free moment with her husband, son and her poodle named Serendipity. She drinks her Whisky neat and is known to scour the local markets in an attempt to find the best blue cheese available.

 

First of all, can you talk us through your writing process a little bit? 

I am the mother of a two-year-old son. A little boy who is full of all the wonderful elements that makes up any toddler. I also work a four-day work week and support my husband with his business. The only way I can fit in time to write is to be a master at time management. The baby goes down for a nap – write. Lunch break – write. During those precious moments, I don’t distract myself with housework, social media or telephone calls. My headphones are in and I have a playlist of 90s rock ballads that I put on repeat. I am also the queen of understanding my own body and what it needs to write. Mornings are best for me with a cup of tea, coffee or even an energy drink depending how much uninterrupted sleep I’ve had. I work in stages and do a minimum of four distinct drafts. I’m currently working on the first draft of my third novel, so I’m getting into the swing of my own style now.

Why do you write and what do you hope to get out of it?

I write because I love it. I write because it is an external expression of who I am. What I think, dream and feel. I’ve always written as a hobby, but I started writing True Refuge when my baby was only six months old with no intention of ever publishing it, or even anyone else reading it. I needed an escape, and so I wrote. That original draft has had innumerable rewrites as I have learnt the complex difference between writing a story and writing a novel to be published. Through that process I discovered that writing is intrinsic to my happiness. I want to create a career as a successful writer. It’s hard work, of that there is no doubt. But it is the type of work that feeds my soul, and so I am able to push through the barriers.

Who or what are some of your biggest influencers?

From sixteen, I lived in a youth refuge in Canberra. During that time, I experienced the significant disparity between privilege and poverty and lived within a part of society that most overlook. Those experiences still colour my life and heavily influence my writing. I have always loved high fantasy novels. I grew up reading (and re-reading) all of J. R. R. Tolkien’s books, the Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist, and the early books by George R. R. Martin to escape during my childhood. As a teenager I discovered Romance, and my ferocious appetitive for books really began. But it wasn’t until I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy did I come to appreciate dystopian and speculative fiction novels and how my experiences could shape these fictitious worlds. The concept that drives Speculative Fiction – What If – fuels my imagination more than any other genre. Couple that with romance and a chance to build a new world? A brilliant combination that I adore to read and write.

What sort of training / study have you undertaken as part of your writing journey? And have you found it useful?

Though I have always loved to write, choosing to become a published author was a decision that came in my thirties. Attending conferences and masterclasses has helped me develop my craft. In 2016, I attended the Romance Writers of Australia’s Annual conference. While I was there, I completed a one-day Story Mastery workshop with Michael Haugh. It really solidified how important it is to tell a great story. He outlined the strategic elements that create a detailed narrative, complex characters and a tight plot. Fiona McIntosh’s Masterclass was also a turning point. Her insights into the publishing world, the work required to create a career out of writing and the mechanics of a successful novel, were pivotal. The connections with other writers has also been fundamental. They inspire me, drive me and support me. I wouldn’t be here without the friendships made through those conferences and classes.

Do you have any advice for other emerging writers?

Write. Everyone says it, but it’s true. Write. Write what you love. I’m time poor, so if I don’t love what I’m writing, I’ll procrastinate and it won’t get done. Like training to run a marathon, it’s about time on your feet (or in the chair, as writing may be). You’ll never succeed if all you ever do is talk about it. Write, get feedback, edit, edit, edit, edit. Then send it out. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! Believe in your style, believe in your words, believe in your genre. Don’t listen to others. Like having children, everyone will have an opinion and everyone will tell you a better way to do something. Trust your instincts, and write, write, write!

The first book in your new Refuge romance series is coming out later this year, but I recall at masterclass that you are also toiling with the idea of writing in another genre, what is your reason for this and how are you finding the shift from Romance to something new?

The chance to explore other genres excites me. During Fiona’s Masterclass I thought of writing contemporary fiction, leaving myself open to the opportunity to explore a range of stories and narratives. These new plots play constantly in my mind, but as I’ve been working hard writing the Refuge Trilogy, I haven’t had a chance to fully investigate these options. Yet!

Thank you so much, Annabelle, for your time and insight. If you want to get more of Annabelle, you can connect with her here:

Website: www.annabellemcinnes.com
Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/authorannabellemcinnes/#
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annabellemcinnes/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/akmcinnes
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/58003716-annabelle-mcinnes\
Escape Publishing: http://www.escapepublishing.com.au/product/9781489251015